His mother’s hip felt warm against his cheek, although it was hard, bone on bone. He didn’t move because he knew that when he pulled away, that meant it was time for her to get ready for work again. He missed his mom when she was at work, so when she was here, he used all his wishes to try to stop time, so that she could stay here forever. But it never worked. Wasted wishes. The moment he pulled away, she patted his hair, kissed his cheek and turned to leave.
She turned, but only part way. “Yes?”
“Tell me about the last time you saw him?”
“Sam. I can’t. Not today.” She stepped back to his side and calmed his hair one more time. “I have to work and you know how this upsets me,” she whispers. “Gramma will be here soon. I have to get ready, baby.”
“Mommy, please? I think I’m forgetting him.”
She sighed a great, heavy sigh, from exhaustion and frustration, but mostly from the burden of pain her husband left in her heart. Work could wait. Easing the sadness and worry in her little boy could not. She walked over to his bed and patted the spot beside her. He jumped down off his chair and padded over to the bed, hopping up right next to his mother. They both, as one machine, laid down on their backs, looking up at his planes.
“You’ve made so many of these, Sam. They’re so beautiful.” She touched one and sent them all fluttering. She swallowed hard, closed her eyes tight, and grabbed his hand for support.
“I saw Daddy that morning, same as every morning he was home. We woke up to the sound of you playing in your room, turned our faces to each other and I looked him right in the eyes. You and I, Sam, we have the same eyes. Sort of grayish-blue, right? Well, Daddy had bright, bright blue. Like the sky, only they looked like they were made from water. Like the pupil (that’s the black middle part) was floating around in there on a pool of blue. So that morning, I stared at them while he stared back and we both listened to you giggle to your toys. After a few minutes, he kissed me on the nose and he rolled out of bed to shower.
“You and I ate breakfast together in the kitchen. When he was finished getting ready, he walked through the doorway to join us. He was wearing his uniform that I’d pressed the night before. Do you remember his uniform? You used to love counting the stripes on his wrists and the wings on his chest. That morning, he sat down with you while I got him a cup of coffee. He put his hat on your little head and you both laughed because it was so big on your little head. You kept it on until he had to leave.
“When it was time for him to go, he stood up, put his hat back on and kissed you on the top of your head. He used to pat down your hair like I do now. You’ve always had the messiest hair.”
“You need to cut it, I think.”
“I think so, too. Daddy then came over to me and gave me a big kiss. He told me he loved me and that he’d be back on Monday. I told him I loved him and that we’d be here when he got back. That’s what I always said before he left. ‘We’ll be here when you get back.’ And then he said he’d miss us until then, told you to be good for me, and he left. He rolled his suitcase out the front door, turned and waved before he shut the door behind him, and then he was gone.”
Sam turned his head to see his mommy. There were tears slowly falling down her cheek, into a puddle in her ear. He reached up and wiped one away. She smiled very small, pulled his hand to her lips and kissed his palm.
“That’s the last time I saw him, sweety. And that’s the last time you saw him, too.”
“That’s because his plane broke?”
“How did it break? They’re so big and metal.”
“Everything can break, Sam. That’s why we always have to be careful. Your daddy’s plane broke and your daddy broke inside of it.”
“What happens if I forget him? What happens if I can’t remember anymore?”
“You won’t forget, baby. Even if you can’t remember his face or the smell of his hair or the feel of his hands, you won’t ever forget your daddy. He’s a part of you and he’s a part of me and we’re a part of each other. If you ever get afraid that you’re not remembering, just look up at your planes. Daddy loved planes so much and now you do, too. That’s part of him that’s a part of you. Just look up and you’ll remember.”
Write about the last time you saw him.